The lifestyle you lead has the biggest impact on your heart health. Even if heart disease runs in your family, you can trump those genetics by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle!
Did you know that a plant-based diet has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of (and even reverse) heart and cardiovascular disease?
Many factors can affect our heart health. Our diet, stress we may face and other lifestyle factors, like smoking and the amount of physical activity we get, play a huge role in how our hearts perform.
In about a day, your heart beats 100,000 times, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood to 100 trillion cells through 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Every time I think of it, it blows my mind!
And it's not just an organ, it's also a muscle. The heart requires a lot of energy and quality nutrition in order to remain healthy. It's unique and, unlike other organs and muscles, it does not become fatigued - it stops only when oxygen is no longer available.
Exercise increases the heart's fitness, so it can deliver more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Be sure to develop a good exercise program after approval from your doctor!
This is why nutrition is so important. In order to live a long and happy live, you need vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, enzymes and antioxidants.
- Studies show nuts and seeds consumed daily reduce the risk of heart disease. They are anti-inflammatory and a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which is very important for cell membrane health.
- Omega 3’s from salmon, sardines, ground flax seed and walnuts reduce inflammation and keep blood platelets from sticking, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables reduce inflammation and protect the heart from free radical damage. The greater the volume of oxygen needed in a cell to make energy, the higher the potential for free radical damage. The heart is a big air and fluid pump, so antioxidants are even more important!
- Magnesium is also crucial. It helps blood vessels relax, potentially reducing blood pressure, which, if high, can damage the heart.
- B12, folate and B6 are critical to reduce the protein homocysteine from accumulating in our tissues. Homocysteine causes cellular damage to the heart and blood vessels and is heavily associated with heart disease.
- Iron, B12, Vitamin C and folate are the worker bees; they make healthy red blood cells and blood vessels.
Heart Health Destroyers
Sadly, the American diet is the perfect diet if you want poor heart health. It is high in sodium, sugar and bad fats and low in nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
If you love your heart, it would be best to avoid or limit the following foods from your diet. These foods are health destroyers!
- Foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol (meats, processed meats, eggs, cows milk and cheese)
- Processed meats
- Foods high in sodium
- Foods high in sugar, particularly added sugars, including refined sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, confectioner's sugar, brown sugar, etc.
- Fried foods
- Flour-based foods (including breading on fried foods, cookies, crackers, cereals, pastries, breads, pasta, etc.) Flour can turn to blood sugar as quickly as table sugar.
- Excess sugar is an additional risk factor in your diet because it creates inflammation and sores in your arteries, which forces your body to use cholesterol to repair them. This makes arteries stiffer, creating more sores or tears requiring more cholesterol. It’s a vicious cycle that accelerates heart and vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Other Heart Health Factors
Stress is a killer! It creates hormonal changes that raise blood pressure, cause obesity and eventually damage your heart.
A lack of exercise let’s muscles atrophy, becoming weaker. Your heart and blood vessels are muscles and need exercise to remain in top condition!
A lack of sleep creates systemic stress, putting additional stress on your heart.
Cigarettes destroy your blood vessels and lungs, obviously critical to healthy heart function.
Limit alcohol to no more than 3 drinks per week.
Having 2 Blasts a day filled with every color of vegetable and fruit, nuts and seeds is going to get you on the right track to greater heart health.
Happy, healthy eating!